Thursday, October 11, 2012

Oh $#@% My Mother is Going to Read this by E. J Wesley

E.J. Wesley is a writer /blogger I met online via one of the blogfests we both participated in, the famous A to Z April Blog Challenge. His blog, The Open Vein, is about being a writer, living the writing life, and suffering...yes, writers do suffer. Trust me on this.

E.J. describes himself on Facebook as an unapologetic nerd. He's the author of Blood Fugue, Moonsongs - Book 1, a paranormal action series with a Texas twist. 

Welcome, E.J.

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Oh $#@% My Mother is Going to Read This by E. J. Wesley

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

What great wisdom for any aspiring author to heed, and I’ve certainly tried. No, trying implies doing something until you’re satisfied or tired. I’ve WORKED at it. I wasn’t giving up until the task was completed, until the job was done, and the boss (reader) was happy.

And there was no greater challenge in my writing development than learning how to let a character speak truly for themself. Basically, when I began writing I was just a puppeteer, my characters would do and say as I made them do and say, nothing else.

For me, to remove my own filters, to slap aside my grandiose story plans, and simply let a character exist and react on the page was a study in complex simplicity. Telling a story is what a writer does, after all. Simple. But you’re not really telling a story, you’re living it—in someone else’s head. Complex.

So when the breakthrough came, and I’d finally created the dynamic, unpredictable character of my dreams, I rejoiced. Authentic characters had been the elusive, missing ingredient in my writing recipe. I had fun plots, ensemble casts, good descriptions—all the biggies. But the stories were bland, like I’d prepared a fine meal and left out the salt.

Now, I had it. My leading lady was an angry mess who swore too much and played too many video games. She was flawed, and tackled life in just about every way I wouldn’t. And I loved her! More importantly, so did the readers. That’s when I knew I’d done something.

My confidence as a writer soared. I began to see my stories in a stronger light. Heck, I could finally stand to look at them with the lights on. So I did the author equivalent of taking my shirt off at the beach, and put my writing out into the world. I didn’t care if my flab and freckles showed, I knew there would be people who would love the character just they way she was.

Then my mother told me she had downloaded the book and was excited to read it…

ME: “Mom, you might not like it.”

MOM: “I’m sure I’ll love it.”

ME: “This isn’t like that handprint, paper plate turkey I made you in second grade. You probably won’t want to put this on your fridge, or show it off at the ladies church luncheon.”

MOM: “Why not?”

ME: “Well, it has some colorful language in it. The main character is a little rough around the edges.”

MOM: silence “I thought you were writing children’s stories.”

ME: “I’ve written a couple of YA stories, but this one is for adults.”

MOM: “I’m sure it’s not language I’d use.”

ME: “Probably not.”

MOM: “Well, I’m going to read it anyway.”

 ME: please don’t disown me “I hope you like it.”

That was a long couple of days, waiting to hear back from her. In the end, she never brought up the language. She bragged about my aunts who had called to tell her they’d read and enjoyed it. She commended me on pulling her into the story, and the breakneck pacing. And she did what she has always done: encouraged me to keep going, and told me I should be proud, because she was.

In the end, I learned a couple of things. 1) Never underestimate a mother’s ability to overlook flaws and see only what she loves. 2) In writing, being true to your characters is risky.

You give away some control, which is terrifying to face when you’re learning to write. It’s like riding a bicycle without training wheels for the first time. There’s no telling where you’ll end up—and bruised and on the ground seems the most likely destination.

But a character, who might say or do anything even if you—or your mother—wouldn’t, becomes a person. And that’s worth reading about.   

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Thanks, E.J. It is amazing how vulnerable we can be when we write with Mom looking over our shoulders. I've experienced that feeling as well.

For more information about E.J. and his writing, including the novel Blood Fugue, please visit his blog, The Open Vein. You can also find him on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter (where he sponsors the weekly New Adult Twitter Chat at #NaLitChat.

And now, for your added viewing pleasure, here's the book trailer for Blood Fugue:


18 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting E.J.

E.J. - I couldn't agree with you more. The best characters - the ones who really stay with one and who make writing come alive - are the ones that writers allow to live. That is, the writer doesn't impede the character, warts, profanity and all. I love it! Thanks.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

"Please don't disown me..." - hilarious! At least your mother read it. My mom's never read either of my books.

E.J. Wesley said...

@ Patricia: Thank you so much for letting me host today! This was so much fun to write. :-D

@ Margo: Why is that so hard for us to get through our heads? lol Thanks for your thoughtful response. :-)

@ Alex: Careful what you wish for my friend! :-)

Melissa Bradley said...

I loved reading this! My mother refuses to read my stuff because well, I write erotica and I wouldn't want her to, LOL.

Wise words to heed about writing the characters for your stories. :)

E.J. Wesley said...

Thanks Melissa!

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I wouldn't mind if my mother read my book, but she doesn't read anymore. My parents were already old by the time I was born (they had me at the age of 40)...yeah! So now that I'm 40, they are in their 80's. It's hard for them to do anything.

Name: Luana Krause said...

E. J. I couldn't agree more! I'm struggling with that as we speak. Letting my character become himself and not doing what "I" would do is a challenge. Thanks for this inpsiration. Pat: thanks for hosting E. J.

Ella said...

This was great! I love edges and bikes ;D
Nothing like Mom's honesty to wake you up~! I am so happy she loved it~It now has a Mother's Seal of Approval and that is huge! Mom's usually tell it like it is~ I love that you shared this!

Thanks EJ n' Pat :D

Elise Fallson said...

“This isn’t like that handprint, paper plate turkey I made you in second grade." ROFL! :D

You know what? I've been working on my ms for over 2 years and my mom still has not read a single word.... Awesome post.

Jemi Fraser said...

Awesome post! My mom doesn't even know I'm writing yet! Good for you to have the guts!! :)

E.J. Wesley said...

Be brave everyone! Those mommas can be mean, but there's usually a lot of love there, too. ;-D

Thanks so much to everyone for reading!

EJW

Medeia Sharif said...

My mother hasn't read my debut yet. I'm sort of glad.

Congrats to EJ on his release.

Carrie Butler said...

“This isn’t like that handprint, paper plate turkey I made you in second grade." LOL

I'm going to hear that in my head the next time my book comes up with family members. ;)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks to everyone who stopped by today, and big thanks to E.J. for this great post (and for calling me lovely on Twitter).

The Golden Eagle said...

My mom hasn't read any of my stories in full (mostly the worst, non-revised first part of my first novel . . . *cringe*) though she knows I write.

Great guest post!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

My YA series was very clean, so I had no problem with letting my mother read it. (And she loved them - made her cry every time.) Edginess just isn't my writing style though.

Julie said...

LOL, I'm glad your Mom didn't disown you, EJ. I was a little nervous when my mom read my book too, so I can relate to this.

Thanks for hosting EJ, Pat! Great post. :)

William Kendall said...

Great post, EJ!

With my solo writing, my parents know there's violence, death, and so on and so forth, along with some language and adult situations (It seems my villains are the ones getting lucky more often than not). My mother will be able to read that. Dad doesn't really go for the thriller genre.

The collaborative work I'm doing, however, is erotica, and it's pretty graphic. Somehow I don't think that's something I can have Mom read.